This blog post is all about the Acacia wood in the Bible
The Acacia tree is mentioned multiple times throughout the Bible, displaying its importance.
In Judaism, the Acacia tree was used extensively in the construction of the Holy Tabernacle (Mishkan).
In this article, you’ll learn:
- My personal story of Acacia trees.
- Characteristics and uses of Acacia Wood
- The connection between Acacia wood, sin, and the cross
- Parallels between Joshua and Jesus in God’s redemptive plan.
- The spiritual significance of the acacia wood and acacia trees.
P.S. This is such a beautiful post. I pray that it blesses you!
Ready? Let’s go!
My story of Acacia trees!
In the ’90s, our family would embark on frequent road trips to our ancestral home Baringo in Kenya – an arid area in the North Rift Valley region. Despite being a drought and famine-prone zone, it was populated with robust Acacia trees that thrive in such extreme conditions.
On our way there, we were always eager to spot a grove of these trees in Naivasha. This usually marked our arrival at the Historic Delamare farms that served tart yogurt like Kefir, a Kenyan delicacy. As young children, we would always wait to spot the Acacia trees and then yell in unison, “We’re at Delamare! Dad, Mom, stop the car!”
So when I say that I’m very familiar with the Acacia trees- trust me. 😂
But in all seriousness, I’d like to tell you that these trees are known for their hardiness and ability to thrive in a place that is otherwise so unforgiving.
Here are a few uses for Acacia in my hometown:
- The bark of these trees was also used as fodder for livestock during drought; not only are they nutritious, but they’re also incredibly useful for many other things too!
- The thorns on the Acacia trees made them a great choice of fencing material, as they would keep wild animals away and protect our animals!
- Not only were the Acacia trees a source of sustenance for our people, but they also acted as an oasis in this arid land – providing respite (shelter) from the harsh climate. Some rural classrooms are often under the shade of an acacia tree! It’s a giant umbrella!
Every time I return home, I’m reminded of those beautiful Acacias that stand proudly against all odds. These trees stand tall and unbothered during the rainy seasons or drought… always constant! They will forever represent resilience and strength to me.
Acacia wood meaning in Hebrew
The acacia tree, is more commonly known as the Shittah tree in Hebrew.
The plural of shittah is Shittim. This term refers to a group or a collection of acacia trees.
What is Acacia wood & where does Acacia wood come from?
Acacia wood is the hardwood harvested from various species of acacia trees.
Acacia trees are found in most tropical and subtropical areas, with some species growing in temperate climates. There are over 160 species of this particular tree.
According to Brittanica, the most common species of Acacia come from Australia and Africa.
Although the Acacia trees had a clear presence in Biblical times, it is reported that there is a decline in Acacia numbers in Israel. The Jewish Journal reports a shrinkage of over 60%!
What does it look like?
As stated earlier, there are over 160 species. Every species has its own unique look and appearance.
Here is some information on the Acacia tortilis (also known as Umbrella Thorn Tree), native to my hometown. It is also a species that is common in hyper-arid areas in Egypt.
1. Height and general appearance:
An acacia tree is a large, striking tree that typically grows to a height of 1.5-18m (5-60 feet) with rough grayish-brown bark and pairs of long thorns along its branches.
(Some acacias also have a yellow or green bark)
The leaves are feathery and comprise individually small leaflets growing opposite each other on the branchlet.
3. Spines OR Thorns:
Acacia trees have signature spines along the branches which deter predators from reaching eggs laid by weaver birds in nests at the end of their branches.
These spines vary in length and are usually curved, white, or yellow in color and quite sharp.
4. Flowers & Fruit:
The flowers of the acacia tree are small and bright yellow, while its fruit consists of a flat pod that can be up to 2 inches long.
Inside this pod are several seeds that are hard-coated with a brown woody layer which protects them from predators and helps them survive after dispersal.
Courtesy Reference for this section: Food and Agriculture Organization
Characteristics of Acacia Wood
- Acacia tortilis species is a slow-growing tree that has an exceptionally long lifespan. I couldn’t believe it when I pulled up a study that indicated great longevity (200 – 650 y) and slow growth (0.2 – 2.4 mm/y). Can you imagine that? 650 years? Is this real? I’m stunned!
- Its strong roots help it survive in extreme environments such as deserts and savannahs where other species cannot thrive due to its ability to store water underground for long periods.
- The Acacia can lie dormant for a period of time before regeneration (Source: USDA & ScienceDaily)
- The branches of the Acacia tree typically have one branch known as a sacrificial limb. This limb is used to accumulate toxins from the tree. (Source: Gus Le Breton, African plant specialist)
- Acacia wood is extremely hard and durable due to its dense grain, making it ideal for outdoor furniture or items that will be exposed to harsh weather conditions, such as boats or outdoor decks.
- Its natural oils make it water-resistant, therefore protecting it from rot and decay in wet climates.
- The beautiful yellowish-gold color of Acacia wood gives it a unique appearance when used in décor items or furniture pieces.
- Its texture can range from smooth to slightly rough depending on the species, but it is generally quite pleasant to touch.
- Acacia wood is also known for its resistance to warping and cracking, making it an excellent choice for pieces exposed to extreme temperatures.
- It is also very lightweight, allowing easy transportation of furniture items made from this type of wood.
- Acacia trees grow in groves with intertwined limbs, which helps protect them from predation and harsh climatic conditions such as drought or floods.
Uses of Acacia wood
Here is a numbered list of the uses of the acacia wood:
- Acacia wood is highly valued for its strength and durability, making it a popular choice for carpentry, fences, furniture and constructing shelters,.
- It is also used to make musical instruments such as woodwinds or percussive instruments.
- The acacia tree has long been used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as fever, headaches, and inflammation.
- According to Britannica, the Acacia gum arabic, collected from the acacia tree’s bark, is used for various purposes such as adhesives, pharmaceuticals, inks, etc.
- Its strong bark can be boiled down into a tea with medicinal properties that help boost the immune system.
- The wood from the acacia tree is also used to create weapons such as spears and arrows due to its hardness and resilient nature when exposed to harsh environmental elements like fire or rain.
- Acacia is popular for household items such as bowls, utensils, and other kitchenware. Their durability makes them able to hold both hot and cold drinks/food. (Source: Rainforest bowls)
- Acacia wood is also highly valued in creating boats due to its strength and durability when exposed to water.
- The leaves of an acacia tree are said to soothe digestion and has antioxidant properties.
- Acacia wood is also used as fuel for fires due to its flammability. Firewood derived from the acacia tree produces a pleasant aroma when burned.
Acacia wood in the Tabernacle
During the time of Moses, when the Hebrews were journeying toward their promised land from Egypt, they did not have a temple to facilitate worship. Instead, they constructed a tabernacle – an encampment with a tent-like structure – which housed the Ark of the Covenant.
This chest was crafted from Acacia wood – known for its strength and resistance – as it contained two tablets inscribed with The Ten Commandments. Thus, Acacia wood provided an ideal foundation for such an important relic.
The Lord commanded Moses to assemble a team composed of Bezalel and Oholiab, who were chosen for their exceptional skills and gifts. (I mentioned this in my creativity blog post)
Furthermore, Exodus 36 outlines that God gave Bezalel “wisdom and understanding” (36:1), granting him supernatural abilities to craft an intricate chest with fine details.
The Acacia wood was used in many aspects of the Tabernacle, recorded in Exodus 25-40.
Here are a few examples of Acacia wood in the tabernacle:
- The ark of the covenant was made of Acacia wood (read Exodus 37).
- Acacia wood was used to hold up the veil. The Israelites were asked to make four posts overlaid with gold and stand on silver sockets that stood at the entrance of the Tabernacle, holding up a veil (Exodus 26:31-33).
- The table of showbread (which points to the bread of life) was also made of Acacia (Exodus 25:23-30).
- A golden altar was crafted from acacia wood for burning incense, measuring three feet long, three feet wide, and four and a half feet tall (Exodus 30:1-5).
- A bronze altar of burnt offering was made from acacia wood measuring five cubits by five cubits (Exodus 27:1-2).
- All the poles used for carrying these important items in the tabernacle were made from acacia wood and overlaid with gold.
In the next section, I have more verses mentioning the Acacia wood; keep reading.
Significance of Acacia trees with non-Christians
In as much as Acacia is a type of tree that has long been associated with Christianity and Judaism, it is also revered in many non-Christian faiths and ancient mythologies (for the wrong reasons).
However, I’m choosing to omit this portion of my research because it is quite a distraction and a distortion of what God intended the Acacia to represent.
Spiritual meaning of the acacia tree in the Bible
God’s word reveals a prophetic plan for humanity even before creation began—his design of redemption for mankind through his son Jesus Christ.
1. Acacia wood as a symbol of Elohim’s plan:
As you’ll read further on, you’ll discover something significant: The story of acacia wood is essential to understanding the grand story that Elohim, our Mighty Creator, has woven for us—the story of redemption and new life in Christ.
God’s word reveals a prophetic plan for humanity even before creation began—his design of redemption for mankind through his son Jesus Christ.
2. Symbol of faith and resilience
Numerous Bible scholars state that Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17 point to Acacia trees.
Psalm 1 is used as a metaphor for those who follow God’s guidance: “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither…”
Likewise, Jeremiah 17 is described as a sign of hope and resilience: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
3. Gideon’s story of God’s faithfulness at Beth-Shittah
This totally moved me😭to tears because I love Gideon’s story.
When we look closely at Gideon’s pursuit at Beth Shittah, we find that this reference is not just a mere name of a place but a testament to God’s faithfulness.
After the trumpets sounded, the Midianites turned against each other. Part of army fled…to Beth Shittah. Gideon pursued them with precise military directions and eventually captured two leaders of Midian, where Gideon completed the final mission.
I believe that Beth Shittah holds significance because it symbolizes the turning point of the battle. It was the place where the Midianite army was finally defeated, and God revealed his ultimate power. Gideon’s victory at Beth Shittah demonstrated that God is faithful to his promises!
Judges 7:22 When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath. Israelites from Naphtali, Asher and all Manasseh were called out, and they pursued the Midianites. Gideon sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down against the Midianites and seize the waters of the Jordan ahead of them as far as Beth Barah.”
P.S. Isn’t this story the picture of Jesus? The cross made of Shittah (Acacia) was our turning point.
Colossians 2:15, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
4. Barrenness and desolate land
The 1885 book titled, “Plants of the Bible” by John Hutton Balfour highlights Joel 3:18 in the Acacia section. He indicates, “The tree appears to have grown near Jerusalem, for Joel, is speaking of the glory of the latter days…”
Let’s explore this…
Joel 3:18 says, “And it shall come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and will water the Valley of Shepherds.”
In this verse, the prophet Joel provides us with a picture of the bountiful land and water that will transform the land of Moab from a barren wasteland into fertile land.
The reference to Shittim in the land of Moab symbolizes a barren land with no water, a dry place where trees lack moisture. This represents a spiritual condition where unbelievers are dry, lacking in the knowledge of the Lord, which is like water to the thirsty soul.
However, the knowledge of the Lord will eventually cover such people, as trees will soon bear fruit, and the river of water shall flow to transform the dry and barren places of life.
The barren and dry state of the people illustrates the need for the knowledge of God, which is equivalent to water, to transform souls from a state of barren, dry wilderness to a land of milk and honey.
This symbolically represents the new life and growth that happens in the lives of believers when they receive the knowledge of the Lord, which is the water of life mentioned in the Bible.
I will also touch on sin and redemption in the next section…
Acacia wood and sin and redemption
The story of acacia wood is an essential part of understanding the grand story that Elohim, our Creator, has woven for us—the story of redemption and new life in Christ.
While praying on this post, I was deeply moved by this section. It’s as if the Lord had hard-coded a message before the foundations of the earth to point to Himself.
Please pause and reflect as you read this section because it’s deeply profound and also prophetic.
1. Symbol of sin and redemption
Acacia wood has a deep spiritual significance regarding sin and redemption.
In the Old Testament, Numbers 25 mentions how the Israelites had sinned and fornicated in the Acacia grove of Shittim.
As punishment, God sent a plague upon them that killed many of them who were involved in their immoral activities.
2. Crowning with thorns and rise to highest royalty
Acacia wood was often covered in gold or other precious metals. There is also a strong parallel where our precious Jesus bore our sin and shame.
Jesus ultimately rose to the highest royalty, which is His throne in Heaven. This reveals a great deal about what acacia wood represents – that even through sin and suffering, there is redemption, as Jesus paid for all of our wrongdoings upon Himself.
3. Comparison between Joshua & Jesus & “crossing over”
The parallels between Joshua and Jesus are remarkable. Both were sent by God on behalf of His people with a mission that involved leading them through great struggles and into the Promised Land.
In Joshua 3:1, Joshua led the Israelites from Shittim across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land—a symbol of salvation and God’s kingdom. This is similar to how God sent Jesus to redeem us on a Shittim cross (Acacia) from our sins and lead us to eternal life in His kingdom.
Joshua 3:1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.
P.S. In regards to “crossing over” please also think of this verse in Micah 6:5,
“My people, remember
what Balak king of Moab plotted
and what Balaam son of Beor answered.
Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal,
that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”
4. Symbol of hope, faith, strength & courage
The deep symbolism of acacia wood, and its use both in Joshua’s time and when Jesus came to earth, is a powerful reminder of God’s promise of redemption for all who believe in Him.
It speaks not only of deliverance from sin but also of hope, faith, strength, courage, and everlasting joy that we can find in Jesus Christ.
5. Symbolizing the sacrifice of Jesus
To tie all these points together, I would like to reiterate a few things on Jesus’ sacrifice.
Jesus was crowned with thorns not fit for a King; he was mocked but rose to the highest royalty (The throne of God).
Acacia was always overlayed in precious metal Hebrews 12:2, possibly symbolizing sin & shame being covered by grace and mercy. The cross symbolizes redemption, offering salvation from death to life eternal through faith in Christ’s sacrifice.
The wood used for the cross had a special meaning – it came from a tree representing Israel’s sin and idolatry. Acacia signified that Israel’s sins had been covered and carried away by the death of Jesus.
Was the cross and crown of Jesus made of acacia wood?
I think I’ve kinda alluded to this in the previous section…
The similarities between the Tabernacle and Jesus are numerous.
In the book of Hebrews, Paul states that Jesus is like a greater tabernacle where God dwells (Hebrews 8:2). Furthermore, through his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the law and this ushered a new covenant with humanity (Luke 22:20).
Now another super relevant sermon points to this:
Charles Spurgeon gave a sermon titled, “The Crown of Thorns” in 1874. Spurgeon suggests the use of Acacia. He states, “The soldiers may have used pliant boughs of the acacia, or shittim tree, that unrotting wood of which many of the sacred tables and vessels of the sanctuary were made; and, therefore, significantly used if such was the case.”
So while there is no direct answer to whether or not the cross and crown of Jesus were made from acacia wood, it would make sense that this could be true for the aforementioned reasons:
- First, in the Old Testament, acacia wood was used in the making of the Tabernacle due to its durability and ability to resist decay, suggesting it could have been used for a task as important as making the cross and crown of Jesus.
- Secondly, Acacia trees are found around Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, making it a possible material of choice for the cross and crown.
And that’s it, folks, acacia wood in the Bible
As you’ve read, the Bible mentions acacia wood many times throughout its pages, and it’s clear that this is no coincidence.
To me, the Acacia tells a beautiful story of redemption!
I leave you with this song by Hillsong. I hope it reminds you of how our Almighty God paved the way for us.
May this post lead you to the cross and its profound significance.
Other “tree-rific” 🌲or “plant-astic” posts: